Microsoft Learning is currently phasing in a new generation of Microsoft certifications. These new certifications are designed to be more specific and targeted to better reflect proficiency in a particular technology. You can read all about the big changes in certification here: http://www.microsoft.com/learning/mcp/newgen/default.mspx. In this article I will focus on how this change affects Exchange certification testing.

The new generation of certifications is actually good news for Exchange administrators. In earlier versions of Exchange you passed a single administration or design exam to achieve the Microsoft Certified Professional credential. However, passing both the administration and design exams did not qualify you for a higher certification level unless you also happened to achieve MCSA (Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator) and/or MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer) status. Even then, the Exchange messaging certifications were tacked on as a qualifier to MCSA/MCSE to indicate your area of specialization. Both the MCSA and the MCSE are centered on Windows and Active Directory administration and design. To obtain that MCSE: Messaging certification and let the world know that you are a highly-qualified messaging administrator you actually had to pass eight separate exams.

With the new generation of certifications, there are two levels of Exchange certification: Technology Specialist and IT Professional. Granted, this makes for some really long certification names, but they clearly identify your area of expertise. There are three exams in the Exchange Server 2007 certification track.

To achieve the Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist: Exchange Server 2007, Configuration certification (MCTS), you have to pass only one exam. It is exam number 70-236, Microsoft Exchange Server 2007, Configuring.

The MCTS certification is a building block to the next level up: Microsoft Certified IT Professional: Microsoft Exchange 2007 Messaging Solutions Administrator (MCITP). You'll have to pass two more exams to certify at the MCITP level:

  • 70-237, Designing Messaging Solutions with Microsoft Exchange Server 2007
  • 70-238, Deploying Messaging Solutions with Microsoft Exchange Server 2007

All three of these exams are now available, with the latest exam, 70-238, going live on July 12, 2007. I'm an over-, er, early-achiever, so have already taken and passed all three exams (by taking two while still in beta). All Microsoft exams go through a beta period (you can tell when an exam is in beta, because it will be numbered with the 71 prefix). Selected individuals are invited to take beta exams based on their past certification history. You also have to be registered on the MCP private site and choose to receive MCP newsletters. A beta exam is usually scheduled for 4 hours and includes twice as many questions as the regular (or "live") exam. The beta examinee results are used to develop a bank of good questions for the live exam. Beta examinees also have to wait for their results, sometimes as much as a torturous 8 weeks. Now, I won't break my NDA to help you pass, but I'll give you some hints to help focus your preparation.

First, take advantage of the preparation tools and resources available from Microsoft Learning. Make sure that you review the preparation guide for each exam and that you understand the objectives of the exam (note that we will be updating those exam guides within next few weeks). For a limited time, you can even register to receive a 30% exam discount code. That bonus is available here: http://www.microsoft.com/learning/launch/default.mspx.

There are both instructor-led and online courses available to help you master the new capabilities of Exchange 2007. I recommend instructor-led courses, unless that's just not your style or in your budget. There is definitely a big advantage to having a Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) around to provide clarification and expertise, in addition to the hands-on lab opportunities and learning from the experiences of your fellow students. The Exchange 2007 courses are receiving complimentary reviews from MCTs, with praise going to useful and interesting labs and great discussions. You'll find links to class information and to Microsoft Certified Partner for Learning Solutions training centers at the exam preparation Web pages:

I know that everyone wants to know exactly what kind of questions will appear on the exam. To keep the testing process fair for everyone, I can't tell you that. Look at the exam objectives and make sure that you know how to perform the tasks that are listed. Here are a couple of hints that shouldn't get me kicked out of the MCP club:

  • If it happens in Exchange 2007, there's an Exchange Management Shell command behind it somewhere.
  • If it's new and different compared to other versions of Exchange, you should learn the basics of how it works.
  • If you can't set up Exchange 2007, you won't get very far.
  • Browse the Exchange TechCenter Library. It is your most comprehensive source for Exchange 2007 information and all the answers are in there. (http://technet.microsoft.com/exchange)

If you would like to get more information on this subject, you can also review the following Live Meeting recording:

Microsoft Vista and Exchange 2007 Certification Review Session 1

I hope that this brief explanation helps clarify what is happening with the Exchange 2007 certification tests and Microsoft certification in general. Good luck and happy testing!

- Kate Follis